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France is still in denial about racism and police brutality

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"George Floyd and my little brother died in exactly the same way." These are the words of Assa Traore, whose brother, Adama, died in the custody of French police in a Paris suburb in July 2016.

Traore, a 24-year-old Black Frenchman, was apprehended by three gendarmes following a dispute over an identity check. He lost consciousness in their vehicle and died at a nearby police station. He was still handcuffed when paramedics arrived. One of the three arresting officers told investigators that Adama had been pinned down with their combined body weight after his arrest.

Ever since his untimely death, Traore's grieving family has been fighting for justice. They launched petitions, organised protests, and commissioned private autopsies to discover what caused a perfectly healthy young man to suddenly stop breathing a few hours after being arrested over a trivial matter. Despite their efforts, however, they did not get any satisfactory answers from the authorities. Last month, French medical experts exonerated the three police officers once again, dismissing a medical report commissioned by the young man's family that said he had died of asphyxiation. None of the arresting officers ever faced any charges over his death. They are still employed by the same police force. Some members of their brigade even received commendations for the role they played in suppressing the protests that followed Traore's death.

George Floyd's brutal murder at the hands of the Minneapolis police, and the widespread protests that followed, magnified attention on Traore's death and renewed calls for the French state to address racism and brutality within the police force.

When the Justice and Truth for Adama committee asked people to take to the streets of Paris to protest against racist police brutality in France and across the world - and to once again demand justice for Adama Traore - 23,000 people (60,000 according to the rally's organisers) answered their call.

"Today we are not just talking about the fight of the Traore family. It is the fight for everyone. When we fight for George Floyd, we fight for Adama Traore," Adama's sister said at the June 2 protest.

"What is happening in the United States is an echo of what is happening in France," she added.

The landmark march - the largest such protest in the country's recent history - demonstrated clearly that a large section of French society wants the security forces to be held accountable for their violent and discriminatory actions and policies. Nevertheless, the French state responded to this growing call for action with hostility and denial.

The authorities not only tried to ban the protest due to the coronavirus pandemic, but also expressed their sympathy for the "pain" police officers must be feeling as a result of the accusations and protests.

In a........

© Al Jazeera